‘More jobs and more housing choice are key’

Coun Allan Hepple, second from left, at the groundbreaking for the new Extra Care scheme in Alnwick.
Coun Allan Hepple, second from left, at the groundbreaking for the new Extra Care scheme in Alnwick.

The newest version of the core strategy for Northumberland’s future local plan is set to be endorsed for consultation.

The core strategy will be considered by Northumberland County Council’s policy board at a special meeting next Thursday and, if agreed, will be open for comments and feedback between December 12 and January 11, 2015.

Key issues identified in the plan are the need for Northumberland to have a strong economy with more businesses and jobs – an important link with the council’s future economic strategy. The county’s population is ageing and projections show that without positive policy intervention there will be a significant increase in over 65s, and a significant decrease in people of working age.

In order to attract and retain a working-age population, the core strategy also proposes an extension to choice in the housing market across the county. The strategy highlights the need to achieve these key aims while also protecting and nurturing the special environmental, cultural and historic qualities of Northumberland.

Feedback and comments on previous versions of the plan, along with input from an all-party member working group and further work by the council have meant that proposals have changed since the last consultation – including a reduction in the number of new homes proposed.

There were objections to proposed green-belt deletions to accommodate economic and housing growth and the council has done more detailed work in line with national planning policy to propose more specific boundary change proposals. Only modest green-belt boundary changes are proposed, where the council considers there are exceptional circumstances to justify them. The proposals protect 99 per cent of Northumberland’s green belt.

Coun Allan Hepple, policy board member responsible for housing, planning and regeneration at Northumberland County Council, said: “We have looked very closely at all feedback provided on the previous version of the core strategy and taken this into account. We have also carried out a considerable amount of additional work, to make sure that proposals are fully justified, and also meet national planning guidelines.

“The policies we are proposing are aimed at economic growth for Northumberland and are founded on supporting local jobs and connected communities. This plan will work hand in hand with the emerging economic strategy for the county. In order to encourage people to live and work here we have to boost housing supply and extend choice in the housing market, including providing more affordable housing.”

The core strategy is an extremely important document for the county and will provide the planning principles and guide future development and planning decisions in Northumberland up to 2031. It will set out the general scale and distribution of new development to meet the county’s needs and help the council to make sure that the right development takes place in the right places.

The report will be considered by the communities and place overview and scrutiny committee next Tuesday and the policy board on the Thursday.

During the consultation period, the council has arranged 28 drop-in sessions in communities around Northumberland where people can come along to find out more and discuss issues with council staff.